Do you want your students to be able to understand the grammar rules and hold a conversation?
What if they could tell anecdotes about their past just as easily as they can read complicated texts and write small essays?
Being able to communicate orally in Spanish is so important, yet it is often what students struggle with the most.
This is why your students need more opportunities to speak in class—but not just any chance to speak.
Students need activities that help them to gain confidence and to use the language in authentic ways.
To give your students this meaningful speaking practice, I have put together eight fun activities that involve real-life speaking scenarios. Let’s get their tongues moving!
Real-world Español: 8 Fun Speaking Activities for Spanish Class
1. Remember the Story
This activity basically consists in you telling a story to your students, which they will then retell in pairs/groups while trying to remember as much detail as possible.
There are many skills for students to develop and practice here. They must understand enough vocabulary to know what the story is about, and also a good use of grammar structures and verb tenses in order to construct it by themselves.
But most importantly, in this activity you are forcing students to pay attention and remember. Even though memory is not a skill that is exclusive to language learning, it is definitely very important when communicating orally.
When your students are reading a text or writing an essay—unless they are in an exam—they have the chance to stop and think, to try to remember and maybe to use the dictionary. But in a real-life situation it doesn’t work the same way.
In informal gatherings, for example, it is quite common to share stories and anecdotes from the past. And this activity will prepare your students to do the same—whether it is something that happened to them once or to someone else.
So what kind of story should you tell them?
Definitely consider the age and language level of your students, but any kind of story could work. If it is a personal one, even better. Students love to know more about their teachers, and believe me, they will pay more attention to it. Just try to keep the length appropriate for their level: shorter stories for beginners and longer ones for advanced students.
You can write few questions on the board to guide students when it is their turn to retell the story. For example:
- ¿Qué pasó?
- ¿A quién le pasó?
(To whom did it happen?)
- ¿Por qué?
- ¿Quién estaba ahí?
(Who was there?)
- ¿En dónde pasó?
(Where did it happen?)
- ¿Cuándo pasó?
(When did it happen?)
- ¿Cómo terminó?
(How did it end?)
Depending on level and what you want students to practice, you could also instruct them to retell the story in a different person. For example, if you tell the story in first person, have students retell it in third person.
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2. A Visit to a Bar
This is basically a role-play activity in which your students will pretend to be hanging out at a bar and meeting new people.
To add a more real-life element to the activity, you can always rearrange your classroom. Move the chairs, put out a few lamps, play some music in the background and bring in snacks and drinks. (One student can even be the bartender.)
Tell students they just have to imagine being themselves (or someone else, why not?), hang out and chat. There is just one rule, of course: They can only speak in Spanish.
This activity is great for beginners since they will have to introduce themselves, and can do so after only one class. It is also encouraging for students to see they can already talk a little bit about themselves and share a few basic interests.
However, you can also get your advanced students to role play this same scenario. Meeting new people does not depend on your language level. If anything, the conversations will be deeper, since they may be able to share more than their name, age, occupation and favorite hobbies.
If you want to add a variable for the advanced students or to encourage topics of conversation in a shy group, you can even prepare a few cards in advance with events or situations that students will take on. For example:
- Ayer tuviste un accidente automovilístico.
(Yesterday you were in a car accident.)
- Cuando eras niño/niña viviste en otro país.
(When you were a kid you lived in another country.)
- El mes pasado te despidieron de tu trabajo y aún no encuentras nada.
(Last month they fired you from your job and you still haven’t found anything.)
3. Ride Shotgun
This activity will let students practice giving directions, and you can spice it up and include it any time as a routine-breaker activity for students of any level. Finding their way, asking for directions or giving them is something everyone will need to do when in a Spanish-speaking country, so why not make sure they master these skills?
You are probably familiar with the go-to directions activity: Having students explain how to get from A to B while looking at a map. This is definitely a useful activity, but we are going to scale it up!
Rearrange your classroom and label every desk as a specific place in a town. One desk can be the oficina de correos (post office), another can be the escuela de idiomas (language school), another the mercado (market) and so on.
The spaces between the desks are streets or avenues, which you will also need to label with names. For example, you might have a Calle Emiliano Zapata (Emiliano Zapata Street) or an Avenida Revolución (Revolution Avenue). You can even add a bridge somewhere or simulate a tunnel.
Then, pair up your students and give each a set of instructions, like this:
Estás en la librería y necesitas ir a la oficina de correos.
Después de mandar una carta, tienes que ir al supermercado y a la panadería.
(You are at the bookstore and need to go to the post office.
After sending a letter, you need to go to the supermarket and to the bakery.)
If you can, bring in some toy cars and give one to each pair so they can actually push the car from place to place. The student who pushes the car is el conductor (the driver) and the person guiding him/her is the one riding shotgun: el copiloto. If you can’t get your hands on some toy cars, simply have partners walk through the streets and avenues side by side, as if they were sitting in the front seats of a car.
Each passenger should give directions aloud to their driver in Spanish. Once each pair arrives at the final destination, partners switch spots and receive a second set of instructions. This way the original driver now becomes the passenger, and has a chance to give directions orally to their partner.
Students will be simulating a real-life experience while having fun like kids. They will love this activity, no matter their age!
4. Roll the Dice
This one can easily be a warm-up activity or a routine breaker, but it is only suitable for intermediate level learners and up because students need to know several verb tenses. Students will take turns rolling two dice and describing an action according to the combination they roll.
One die will refer to expressions of time and the other one to “wh”-questions, so if you have different-colored die, now is the time to pull them out. This activity provides students with practice speaking in different tenses by describing actions that either happened, are happening or will happen.
Write two columns on the board (one for each die) with the numbers 1-6 and their accompanying descriptions.
The first dice refers to expressions of time and verb tenses. You can use these for example:
1. Hoy [presente]
p. ej. hablo
2. En este momento [gerundio]
p. ej. estoy hablando
3. Ayer [pretérito indefinido]
p. ej. hablé
4. El próximo año [futuro simple]
p. ej. hablaré
5. Mañana [futuro próximo: ir a + infinitivo]
p. ej. voy a hablar
6. Antes [imperfecto]
p. ej. hablaba
(1. Today [present]
e.g. I talk
2. In this moment [gerund]
e.g. I’m talking
3. Yesterday [simple past]
e.g. I talked
4. Next year [simple future – will]
e.g. I will talk
5. Tomorrow [simple future – be going to]
e.g. I am going to talk
6. Before [imperfect]
e.g. I talked / I was talking / I used to talk)
Each number on the second dice should refer to a “wh” question:
3. ¿Por qué?
To begin, one student passes to the front and rolls both of the dice.
Let’s say they rolled 2 (en este momento – gerundio) and then 4 (¿cómo?). The student would have to build a sentence that describes how an action is happening at this moment, using the present progressive. For example:
En este momento mis compañeros de clase me están mirando de una manera incómoda.
(At this moment my classmates are looking at me in an awkward way.)
If you want to encourage more speaking, ask a few follow-up questions based on whatever action or situation they created. You can also turn this into a pair/group activity to really give students lots of talking time.
5. Meaningful Debate
Never underestimate the classic debate! It is always a great way to develop speaking skills, argumentation, questioning, effective communication and critical thinking.
Just try to think outside the box and choose different subjects than the usual topics (i.e. avoid abortion, death penalty, euthanasia, school uniforms and so on). Nobody knows your group better than you, so use their interests and personalities to choose your topics.
Of course you will have take the age of your students and their language level into consideration, but do not leave children out of this activity. If they have at least an intermediate level, kids can always give you their opinion on current matters and it is often interesting to hear them.
Topics related to Spanish-speaking countries will definitely increase your students’ interest while expanding their cultural awareness. For example:
- Have your class read about the imposed sterilization of indigenous women in Peru and then debate about women’s rights, freedom of choice, reasons a government might encourage either side, etc. Here is an article you could use to get started learning about this topic.
- Or you could debate about the difference between being an “expat” and a “migrant,” and why some societies note the difference. Here is an interesting article from a European girl living as an expat in Africa wondering about this very issue.
- And if you choose to debate about life abroad—the bright and the dark sides—here is good article written by a Spanish guy in Poland.
Current local and global matters will wake up your students and motivate them to speak about topics they would likely discuss with a Spanish speaker in real life.
6. Open a Restaurant
What a noble profession, feeding people. Right? And what an interesting activity for your students, too. This one aims straight for their stomach. (Who doesn’t like food?)
Your students have probably created a menu before (or they will soon), but opening a restaurant is a much more involved project. And if the restaurant is located in a Spanish-speaking country, your students will be hooked!
You can take this activity as far as you want to, but below we will see what a 3-week project might look like.
In the first class, randomly choose two owners for each restaurant. Owners will have to conduct job interviews to select two members of their staff.
During the first part of the class, each pair of owners will design their interviews while the rest of the class prepares their CVs for the interviews. Then the owners will conduct interviews and hire their staff.
Now that they are in teams of four, each group can select a Spanish-speaking country for their restaurant. They will have to do some out-of-class research on the food of that country to select a menu together next time.
In the second class, groups will decide on a menu (with prices) and design a simple layout for it. Students should print a few copies of their final menu, as it will be used on the final day for the closing activity.
In this class, groups must also agree on the logistics for the restaurant: name, schedule, promotions, special events or activities that it organizes.
In the third and final class for this project, each team will present their restaurant to their classmates and invite them to eat. You can either have groups role play the restaurant visits, or you could ask each team to prepare and bring in one of their restaurant’s dishes so you can all enjoy a multicultural lunch.
What makes this activity great is that it gives everyone tons of opportunities to speak, in ways that will be very useful for the real world. It also allows students to work together, organize a project, do research and talk about it. They will need more than food vocabulary for this!
7. Assemble Something
If you are looking for another activity that encourages team work and collaboration while developing speaking skills, this one is for you. It involves students teaming to build something together.
There are several ways you could do this activity. One is that you (and your students) bring recycled materials to class, and groups will then build something of your (or their) choice, such as un robot (a robot), un juguete (a toy), un vehículo (a vehicle), etc.
Students will have to agree on how to build it, decide what to use, distribute tasks, etc. They will be speaking a lot!
Just a small tip: Do not forget to also bring scissors, glue, ruler, colors and markers to this class.
Another way to do this type of activity is for students to “build” something by following instructions from one another. Origami works wonders for this! You can pair up students and print out copies of written and illustrated instructions. Here is an example of how to make a simple origami dog.
Students will take turns giving/receiving instructions, so each can guide his/her partner to create the final figure. But make sure there is no showing, only talking. Getting their partner to follow such specific instructions is a great verbal challenge.
Either way your students assemble something—whether following your instructions or each other’s—this activity encourages the practical use of the language to obtain a result, which is a skill they will constantly need.
8. Get to Know Your Classmates
In this activity, students will get to know each other and talk about themselves in a slightly deeper way. The coolest part is that you can incorporate it at any time of the year, and it even works for groups that have been together a long time.
To begin, form a circle with the whole class. One by one, students will take turns sitting in the front seat to talk about themselves and answer their classmates’ questions, like an interview. Make sure everyone asks at least one question at some point during the activity.
Try to make this dynamic so the conversation can flow naturally. That’s to say, do not follow a specific order of questions. The point is to let students speak, so if a specific subject interests them, encourage it.
If it is a shy group and they are having trouble coming up with meaningful questions, join in with your own questions to get the interview started. But be careful that it does not become a two-person conversation with you and the featured student. Always encourage your students to join in, especially the ones that tend to speak less in class.
Ask less obvious questions, but do not get too personal. Classmates may already know about their friends’ current hobbies and activities, so past experiences or future fantasies are good topics to try. This way students get more practice with a variety of verb tenses too.
Maybe students can tell the class about their best friend from childhood, how their parents met, or the house they grew up in.
If the interview does end up involving the present, go deeper. For example, if the featured student talks about a sport they play, ask them why/when they began playing that sport. Or if the interviewee shares what music they like, ask how that music makes them feel or what it reminds them of.
Always consider the language level of your students; the more advanced they are, the more complex the questions can be. With very simple questions this activity can also work for beginners, so do not rule them out.
So, are you feeling ready to get your students to talk more?
All of these activities simulate real-life scenarios in one way or another, so they will be super beneficial for your students.
Furthermore, let these ideas inspire you to come up with your own. Consider the situations your students might encounter if they were in a Spanish-speaking country, and you will have tons of options.
Special, interactive activities can make learning Spanish all the more fun. The excitement and interest could be further amplified when you use fantastic content as learning material, such as the kind you’d find on FluentU.
With FluentU’s diverse and growing library of authentic content, students learn and live Spanish in an immersive fashion.
FluentU works for the educator as well! FluentU’s integrated teaching tools make it simple to monitor your students’ progress as they complete exercises and review the newly-learned material.
Check out FluentU today to see how you can get your class even more excited for language studies! You’re sure to find content that can work wonderfully as a basis for an in-class activity and get your students talking!
Let’s get the classrooms filled with speaking activities—your students will really appreciate it!
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